It’s [10:30] AM and you are on the treadmill at the gym. It is your late day at work and are not due to check into the office until noon. Your exercise program beeps at you and you begin to kick it up a notch. You’re starting to work up that good sweat when your phone rings. You glance down at the screen and see it is the office calling. Do you:
a) Pick up the phone: it must be really important if they are calling you during your off time.
b) Ignore it: you will deal with whatever it is at 12 PM when you get in.
c) Finish your workout and call your office back afterwards: this is your time and 15 minutes probably won’t hurt the situation one way or another.
Your response to the above question can reveal your preferred boundary style. Boundary management in the workplace is becoming an important issue for both employees and managers. The integrated use of digital and cellular technology in our lives has often led to the blurring of
lines between work and family time. Add the fact that alternative work arrangements such as tele-commuting or compressed work-weeks are becoming more common and we can see how the landscape becomes hazier.
So… does a phone call or email after your office hours count as overtime or comp time? A recent law in Brazil states that workers who answer emails on their smartphones can count that as overtime. Clearly this is an issue that needs to be addressed at several levels.
3 Boundary Styles
Regardless of what policies might get constructed from the “higher ups” it is important that we all know our own boundary style. Most people fall into one of three distinct boundary styles.
1) The Assimilator. Assimilators love to mix work and family time and are comfortable with an irregular schedule. Assimilators love the freedom that comes with shifting work and family demands and relish in the fact that there are no clearcut hours for work or play. Flexibility is important to them so that 10pm email is not a problem if that means they can leave early one day to catch their child’s soccer game or meet some friends at a restaurant.
2) The Divider. Divider’s have a more traditional approach to work and family. When they are not at work or at a company sponsored function they do not want to be bothered. Work time is work time, personal time is personal time and the two should never ever cross. Getting emails or calls at off hours frustrates them and often feels like an invasion of privacy.
3) The Chameleons. Chameleons enjoy the best of both worlds. They generally like to have a separation between work and family time but also recognize that there are times when work seeps into personal time and that is OK to them. Emergencies occur, coworkers sometimes need help, and some times of year are just plain busy. An intrusion of personal time is OK in small and predetermined doses but a return to regularity is preferred at the end of the day.
Why is this important?
Knowing which boundary style you are and which boundary style the organization prefers is vital in determining whether a place of employment is a good fit. Both employees and managers should take note which styles their employees prefer or are more comfortable with as this may eliminate workplace conflict. Everybody has a different perspective on how work and family/personal life should mix and thus the key to eliminating conflict and maximizing employee morale is open and honest communication.
Dr. Paul Artale is a motivational speaker, author, and organizational coach who helps organizations create high performance culture through understanding employee needs and leveraging their strengths.
For more information visit www.paulartale.com
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